Your columnist - Gerry Moran
This week, dear readers, one of those deep, meaningful, questions that haunts mankind (or at least this kind man!) ‘What is an itch?’ ‘An irritation or tickling feeling in the skin’ So says my dictionary. But damn it we all know that. Dictionaries can be dumb betimes. My question, my issue is: what causes that irritation, that tickly feeling on the skin?
You see this itch business came to a head as I was having my head, or at least the hair on my head, trimmed the other day. I am sitting there in the barber’s chair cocooned in a large cape (to protect me from my own hair!) as my man the barber snips away, leaning a little to the left, then to the right, then gently pushing my head forward to attack the back – all part of the ‘short back & sides’ ritual, back in fashion again. Anyway as he snips away a little itch erupts? Arises? (what’s the correct terminology for an itch popping up on the skin?) on my face. Not on my head, thank God; scratching that itch would have the barber reaching for his magnifying glass, scrutinising my scalp and possibly hollering: ‘Nits. Nits’. As everyone bolts for the door for fear of contamination. No, this little itch (and itches are almost always little, I notice) arose on my cheek – a cheeky little itch, you could say. Now I really could have done without that little itch. Done without it because I am in a meditative, mindful mood (as I usually am when having the hair cut) sitting there, eyes closed, listening to the rhythmic snipping of the barber’s scissors. No yap. No chat. No small talk. My barber doesn’t put chat on me. There is an add on the telly at the moment that goes: ‘A good barber knows when to talk, a better barber knows when to shut up.’ Well, by those standards, my barber is not good or better but best because he says nothing. I like nothing when having my hair cut. I like nothing better than ten minutes of nothingness. Just peace and calm and mindfulness.
And then this damn itch arises. Disturbing the peace. Distracting me and leaving me with a massive dilemma: to scratch, or not to scratch? I’d rather not scratch, for all the reasons I’ve just mentioned so I try to will it away. Ever try to will an itch away? Itches are stubborn little critters (which we’ll get to anon) Indeed the more you try to will them away – the itchier they become. In fact an itch, as every Tom dick and Harry knows, is only happy and content when scratched. The dogs in the street know that. And no better species than a dog to scratch. Dogs, I do believe, spend seventy percent of their time on earth – scratching.
Meanwhile the cheeky itch on my cheek is not going away. No sir. And I don’t want to scratch it because a) it will break the barber’s rhythm which is flowing (yes flowing) smoothly and effectively and b) it’s a damn nuisance having to extricate my hand from beneath the cocoon-like cape to get to the itch. And all the while I’m wondering what exactly is causing that itch? Is it some class of microscopic critter snacking on my epidermis? And if I don’t scratch it will it just keep on gnawing, chewing, feasting on my flesh? I mean I don’t want to leave the barbers with a happy haircut but a hole in my face thanks to some insidious, invisible, itch-inducing ‘insect’, for want of a better word (and that’s a fair sceilp of alliteration) which may ruin, forever, my good looks!
Meanwhile the barber snips serenely and rhythmically away totally unaware of the turmoil raging in my head over a stubborn, persistent little itch. I decide to scratch it. Which can’t be done suddenly or abruptly or I could be minus a sliver of ear. No way. First off I give a civilised little cough which makes the barber pause, so while he’s paused I extricate my hand and scratch. Ah, sweet relief. One of life’s simplest, and sweetest, little pleasures is a good scratch of a good itch. Itch scratched, hand goes back in, eyes close and normal snipping resumes as I make a mental note to Google ‘itch’ when I get home. Googling an itch! What next says you. And wouldn’t you think that I have better things to write about than an itch? I have. And I’m just itching to write them. But not this week.
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